Some people love them; others hate them. But acronyms are here to stay.

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Every field of human endeavor, from finance to academia to medicine to technology to entertainment, has its own jargon.

Much of it is in the form of acronyms — think of old standards like ROI (return on investment) or newer additions such as TL;DR (too long; didn’t read) and JGI (just Google it).

And while acronyms are annoying when used to excess, we shouldn’t forget that they exist for good reasons.

First, obviously, they speed up and simplify communication. WFH is just easier to type than “working from home,” especially in texts. Ditto for the now-ubiquitous BTW, FYI and LMK.

Second, and more subtly, acronyms can be a way to signal belonging. Understanding and correctly using your industry or workplace jargon shows you’re part of the group. A special and private-seeming “language” fosters cohesiveness and builds a sense of teamwork.

Of course, you’ll still want to be judicious. Even in acronym-loving fields like government or technology, a report with all-cap abbreviations on every other line can be a chore to read. Worse, you may be setting yourself up for mockery. Let common sense, in addition to the norms of your workplace, be your guide.

No matter where you work, you’ll definitely want to be familiar with those acronyms that have become so commonplace they are now almost “invisible.” Here are a few of the most popular ones:

IAM: in a meeting

NSFW: not safe for work (also, there’s NWR: not work-related)

WIIFM: what’s in it for me

BID: break it down

OTP: on the phone

OOO: out of office

LET: leaving early today

TYT: take your time

NRN: no reply necessary


COB: close of business (similar to EOD: end of day)

You could no doubt add to this list.

A final note: Sometimes an abbreviation can be a sly way to inject humor into an otherwise ho-hum text or email. It all started with the now old-fashioned KISS (keep it simple, stupid). Now we have DFTBA (don’t forget to be awesome), HAND (have a nice day), FUTAB (feet up, take a break), ELI5 (explain like I’m 5 years old), and EAK (eating at keyboard). A cleverly placed acronym still has the power to bring a smile to your reader’s face.

But do proceed at your own risk.